Say it Ain’t So

There is no debate over which year was the Greatest Year in the hundred year history of baseball.*

You might think that there would be discussion among barflies, tailgaters, and fans from different cities across the country. You might expect a spirited conversation with reasoned arguments, endless statistics and salty language. You might imagine that the following years might be up for consideration for The Greatest Year in the History of Baseball. What about...

The 1927 New York Yankees? With a batting line up dubbed "Murderers Row"? Their lineup included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig; their winning percentage was .714. They finished 19 games ahead of the second place Philadelphia Athletics and 59 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox.

Yet the 1927 New York Yankees were not the Greatest Team in the History of Baseball.

What about the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers? They lost the first two games to their accursed cross town rivals the Yankees to whom they had lost several previous series. Then they came back to win the decisive seventh game. Were the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers the Greatest Team in the History of Baseball?

No. Not even close.

The 1968 St. Louis Cardinals? Bob Gibson was their star pitcher. He was 22 and 9 during the regular season with a 1.12 ERA and won two of his three world series games. Lou Brock stole bases left and right. Were the 1968 St Louis Cardinals the greatest team in the history of baseball?

No. Not by a long shot.

The 1969 Miracle Mets? The 1997 Florida Marlins? Both of these teams won the World Series before they had been in the league a full decade. Is either or these "worst to first" teams the greatest in the history of baseball?

No.

What was the greatest team in the history of baseball?

The greatest team in the history of baseball is the team from the year that you turned 12 years of age.

***

So if was particularly disappointing--heartbreaking really--to learn once and for all that Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs. They 12 year-old boy is me was devastated to finally acknowledge that Lance used a blood-booster, EPO, and testosterone and anything else he could get into his system. His team mate and good friend, George Hincapie, put the final nail in the coffin, removing all uncertainty. Hincapie, who rode with Armstrong on all seven Tour de France victories stated unequivocally that Armstrong used illegal substances.

In short, Armstrong cheated.

The greatest athlete in the history of cycling, arguably the greatest athlete in the history of sport, cancer survivor, role model, and all around decent guy, was scamming us all along.

I wanted to believe. Desperately. How much did I hold on to the idea that Lance didn't cheat? How long and how hard? Let me give you an (admittedly painful) example of how I am not quick to give up on an untenable idea:

Me: You don't want to go out with me ever again?

Girl I Dated Briefly in College: No. We have nothing in common. I don't like you. You're ugly and your mother dresses you funny. I'm moving back in with my husband and we're leaving for Algeria in the morning.

Me: So, do you want to go out on Saturday?

Similarly, I wanted to believe that Lance had "overcome adversity" and triumphed over cancer. My friends and I talked about Lance all the time. Did you hear what Lance said about the marathon he ran in New York? The "King of the Mountains" of the Tour de France said that the marathon was "the hardest physical thing [he] had ever done is [his] life." How great is that?

A buddy of mine, a respected pathologist, had pictures of Lance Armstrong all over his office. When asked why, rather than framed medical degrees, he had instead pictures of a cyclist, the doctor just got a wistful look in his eye. "Anybody can go to medical school" was all he said.

What does the Greatest Year in the History of Baseball have to do with Lance Armstrong? And what do the Greatest Year in the History of Baseball and my diminished admiration for Lance Armstrong have to do with my usual topics of parenting (how to bring up good kids in a tough culture) and education? Only this: If we love our children, if we want what is best for our children, shouldn't there be heroes and heroines whom our children can admire and want to grow up to be like? Shouldn't our children spend their impressionable and formative years looking up to people, people who are admirable and straight up?

Rather than having their hearts broken by cheaters?

* Neither the question of what was the greatest year in the History of Baseball nor the answer is my idea. I would like to give it a proper attribution. If anyone knows with whom this wonderful discussion originated, please let me know.

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